The Wild And Wonderful Whites Of West Virginia Documentary

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Table of contents

  1. Social Disorganization- Marco
  2. Labeling Theory- Micro
  3. Differential Association

In Boone County, West Virginia lives the Whites family. For an entire year, a camera crew followed the Whites family’s crazy life style. This documentary began after Jesco Whites was in “The Dancing Outlaw.” He became famous because of his mountain tap dancing style and infamous because of his family’s background. The Whites family is known for their wild and excessive devious ways which include shoot-outs, robberies, gas-huffing, drug dealing, pill popping, and even murder. This documentary exposes the influences of corruption, poverty, environmentally and culturally devastation that shapes who the Whites family is and why they are called America’s last outlaw family.

Social Disorganization- Marco

The theory of Social Disorganization states a person’s physical and social environments are primarily responsible for the behavioral choices that a person makes. Social Disorganization theory proposes that social order, stability, and integration are conducive to conformity, while disorder and segregation facilitate crime and delinquency. At the core of Social Disorganization theory, is that location matters when it comes to predicting illegal activity. To state it simply, the Social Disorganization Theory states structural and cultural factors shaping the nature of the social in a community. Looking at this documentary, there is a lot of factors that contribute to this theory. Two of the key factors that contribute to this theory is the history of Madison, West Virginia and the attitudes of former coal miners. The history of Madison plays a significant part in the social structure and the environment that the Whites life in. Madison is known as the gateway of the coal fields due to it being a former coal mining town. The coal mining culture still lingers in Madison to this day. Coal is no longer fueling America, and the industry is slowly dying with it which in turn means the communities are dying too. With no jobs, no money and nowhere to stay, unemployed miners struggle in Madison and the Whites family are no different. Madison is a former coal town that is full of individuals that have devil-may-care attitudes. This cheerful and reckless attitude on life stems from the attitudes after the coal-mining industry’s exploitation of their ancestors, as well as the hazardous profession itself, which is so dangerous that one’s mortality is thrown into sharp relief and, in turn, engenders a reckless, devil-may-care attitude.

Labeling Theory- Micro

The documentary starts with the camera crew interviewing citizens of Madison asking them about the Whites family, which leads me into my second deviant theory: Labeling Theory. Labeling theory is a perspective that grew out of symbolic interactionism and consists of three principles meaning, interaction, and interpretation. The labeling theory centers around five concerns, the audience, label, stigma, reflexivity, and the self-fulfilling prophecy. The crew interviewed a few citizens including the sheriff, defenses attorneys and a musician, it was clear from there interviews that the Whites family had a reputation in the town as being wild and free. Captain Randall Whites of the Sheriff’s Department is clearly frustrated by the Whites family’s lack of respect for the authorities, has no rules, and how they do not conform to the norm in Madison.

The Whites family has been labeled as the rebels of the South. The Whites like to think of themselves as outlaws, rock stars, rebels, and they exist primarily to party, which consists of drinking heavily, smashing up prescription medication to snort it, smoking joint after joint of marijuana, doing line after line of coke, starting bar fights, swinging loaded guns around, and occasionally going to jail for using those loaded guns on human targets. The Whites know they are on a self-destructive path, seem to embrace it and enjoy it most of the time, but there are those moments that show the terror and hopelessness of addiction and depression. It may be hard to feel sorry for people who do all these awful things in front of their grandparents or children, but keep in mind the location and the upbringing of the family.

Differential Association

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The theory of Differential Association proposes that through interaction with others, individuals learn the values, attitudes, techniques, and motives for criminal behavior. Differential associations may vary in frequency, duration, priority and intensity. Sutherland argued that deviant/ criminal behavior is learned. The members of the Whites family are not inherently deviant. They were raised in and have become a product of their environment that allowed and enabled these learned deviant behaviors. They were taught to rationalize what others would know to be unacceptable behavior into acceptable behavior. Mamie Whites, the fifth child of D. Ray and Bertie Mae Whites, talks about her father’s legacy and the destructive habits of the family. Her father, D. Ray Whites who was tragically murdered in 1985, was a former coal miner who learned how to best manipulate the legal system. Before his untimely death, he managed to trick the government into giving all his children social security checks under the excuse that he was “unfit” to work. Mamie talked about how before D. Ray died, he tried to share his talents with his sons whilst trying to become the next legendary mountain tap dancer.

Mark Whites, Mamie’s oldest brother was murdered, her second brother Dorsey Whites accidentally shot and killed himself, and the youngest brother Poney Whites got in trouble with the law and fled to another state, where he now has a family and a stable job. All the stories about her three brothers are relevant because the children were all raised in an environment that did not give them a chance to be exposed to values such as personal safety or focus on personal responsibility.

Jesco Whites was the only son that followed in D. Ray shoes with mountain tap dancing and made it big on a BBS film. This introduction to the documentary expresses the hardship that the surviving offspring face following all these tragic deaths. The camera crew followed around the Whites family for an entire year capturing all their chaotic, impoverished glory as they face a year’s worth of births, deaths, prison time, rehab, estranged spouses and more, all accompanied by a heap of drinking, drugging, cussing and depravity. Bo Whites, one of the younger daughters of Bertie Mae and D Ray Whites, has two children, Derek and Kirk Whites. Derek Whites followed the behavior of his mother and is an active drug user and seller. He has become infamous for a clip in the documentary which he asks the camera, “You want to hear the Boone County mating call?” and proceeds to shake a bottle of prescription medication. Bo’s daughter Kirk is also a drug user and is often so inebriated that she is difficult to understand, although her recount of stabbing her husband is vivid. “I aimed to kill that motherfucker,” she tells the camera, she even adds that her grandma helped her mop up the blood so there would be no evidence to incriminate her. Six months after an interview with Kirk, she gave birth to a baby girl. Within a few hours of giving birth Kirk, snorts lines of cocaine. Kirk lost custody of her newborn to the county after drugs were found in both of their systems. In the hospital, Kirk told the camera crew that she wanted a better life for her baby girl. Kirk wanted her to finish school and leave Boone County, because no matter how many dreams you have they are not going to come to fruition if you live in Boone county.


The documentary never makes excuses, but it also allows the Whites family to speak, and it listens, and we see that Jesco’s life has been full of tragedy and death. These people may have given up, but they seem to love each other deeply.

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